Persistence literally pays off for Pierce nursing student
After submitting more than 100 scholarship applications and essays, Elisa Hardesty has her reward: nearly $20,000 to use towards her education.
“I knew I was going to run out of money before I got to nursing school,” explained Hardesty. “I ended up spending a couple hours a week researching scholarships and applying for everything I could. I knew I wanted to go to nursing school and I knew scholarships were the only way I was going to pay for it.”
Hardesty has spent the last three years at Pierce College completing the prerequisites for the nursing program. In November, she was accepted into the competitive program. When she finishes, she plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing and continue working to become a midwife.
The scholarships she’s earned so far will make that dream come true.
“I was so stressed out about school and how I was going to pay for it,” she said. “I can’t be a single mom, a full-time student, and work full-time, so scholarships are critical for me. I can’t even tell you how big a relief it is.”
Hardesty’s largest single award, a $10,000 Pearson Prize, a national scholarship that honors community service, included a trip to New York City for a leadership conference in August. There, Hardesty completed team building workshops and took part in activities that inspired her to continue her community service efforts locally.
Her favorite service is as a volunteer doula at St. Joseph’s Hospital. As a future midwife, this work solidifies Hardesty’s resolve and keeps her motivated. She loves helping new mothers and bringing babies into the world.
“I love being a doula,” she described. “I get to be with a mom from the time she checks in to the time her baby eats. I give mostly on-the-spot support to women who come in alone or who don’t have adequate support. I just love being part of it. I know that’s what I was meant to do.”
Hardesty is a mother herself and gives as much time as she can to Cameron, 8, and Natalie, 6. It’s a difficult juggle between home, school, and the hospital, but Hardesty and her children know it will be worth it in the end.
“I want to be able to give my kids everything other kids have, but, right now, my answer is always ‘when I graduate,’” she said candidly. “Being a parent adds up and I know it’s hard on them, but I know they understand. I think they’re proud of me. My daughter tells everyone, ‘My mommy is going to be a baby doctor.’”
Even with $20,000 in scholarships in-hand, Hardesty still spends several hours every month completing applications and working towards securing additional funds. She is especially driven towards scholarships that cover basic living expenses. She wishes more scholarships offered that kind of flexibility. She sees it as a huge funding gap that affects many students.
“We’ve already proven we’re dedicated and focused on finishing, and we’ve earned the trust that we’ll use the money responsibly,” she said. “There are so many dedicated students out there who have the ambition and the drive to keep going. They just don’t have the money.”
Hardesty’s advice to other struggling students is to apply for everything, especially local scholarships. The Pearson Prize was her only national award; everything else came from local sources and in denominations of $200-2,000 each. Several small scholarships can add up to big money, if students take the time to apply, said Hardesty.
“Don’t be afraid to tell your story,” she advised. “That’s what makes you stand out. And, don’t get discouraged. If you keep trying and keep putting yourself out there, it will happen. You just have to be willing to try.”